By Raïssa Robles
Understanding the Elections – Part 2:
This is a very difficult piece for me to write. Perhaps it’s the reason why I’ve been putting off writing it for so long.
Disclosing my personal choices of candidates for political office goes against my professional upbringing as a journalist.
I won’t give a specific list of choices, except in the case of one candidate and I’ll explain why.
What I’ll do instead is share with you guys the considerations I take into account when choosing from this particular set of Senate candidates. I’ll tell you what – to me – their positive and negative aspects are — particularly those within fighting distance to land in the Magic 12. I’ll leave you to make your own choices.
I used to consider intelligence as THE main qualification for national office.
But in recent years I’ve asked myself – why is it that our country has remained poor and decaying despite having so many top government officials graduate from Wharton or London School of Economics, or Harvard or Yale or Oxford University?
Why has all this brain power not translated to a better quality of life for most Filipinos?
It was then I realized, after covering Philippine politics for over three decades – including a stint at the Senate – that there is something horribly missing in most of our politicians who seek and win political office. They place the welfare of their families and relatives first.
Although they may say while campaigning that their heart bleeds for the poor, their interests are not really with the poor.
But as I wrote earlier, it is not only my personal choices that matter in these elections. I also have to consider which political alliance will end up controlling the Senate and who will end up being president in 2016. See my earlier story – The THREE most important questions to ask yourself in voting for senators
In the previous article, I posed three questions:
QUESTION ONE: Who do I want to be President of the Philippines in 2016?
QUESTION TWO: Which political bloc do I want to have control of the Senate, the Commission on Appointments, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal and the Senate Electoral Tribunal: The bloc of President Benigno Aquino (PNoy) or the bloc of Vice-President Jejomar Binay?
QUESTION THREE: Who are my personal choices for senator?
In Part 1, I answered QUESTIONS ONE and TWO.
This Part 2 is an attempt to help you answer QUESTION THREE. But as I said, the answers to QUESTION THREE will be affected by your answers to QUESTIONS ONE and TWO.
Just a clarification: You can of course vote for less than 12. But by not voting for 12 names, you allow other senators whom you do not at all like to possibly go up in ranking and make it into the Magic 12.
UPDATE: By the way, ABS-CBN has asked me to join their post-election news analysis late Monday . So I have to sleep now. I forgot.
Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay (Liberal Party)
The only senatorial candidate that I would like to win a Senate seat is two-term senator Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay, not because he is the son of the late President Ramon Magsaysay nor because he is with the Liberal Party.
I want him back as senator because Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay was the one who dared to push for a law that harmed the interests of the political power elite to which he belongs. I am talking of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (Republic Act 9160) which he sponsored and shepherded through approval.
Most lawmakers resisted the passage of the law because it would enable authorities to track their large money transactions.
Recently, Congress amended the Anti-Money Laundering Act to include more kinds of transactions to be monitored, but this is not enough. Congress left out casinos. Casinos are a great and convenient way to launder bribe money, as what has been discovered in Macau.
If elected, I would like Senator Jun Magsaysay to include casinos. In addition, I would like him to work for the deletion of a section in the original Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 which gives blanket protection to politicians to bring back into the country any laundered assets. I am referring to the provision below:
Sec. 16. Prohibitions Against Political Harassment. – This Act shall not be used for political persecution or harassment or as an instrument to hamper competition in trade and commerce.
No case for money laundering may be filed against and no assets shall be frozen, attached or forfeited to the prejudice of a candidate for an electoral office during an election period.
Notice that the section uses the phrase “election period” and not “campaign period.” It does not define the “election period”, which could be stretched to mean for the entire year when elections are to take place.
Sources told me that the idea behind Section 16 was to put blinders on the Anti-Money Laundering Council during the time when politicians start bringing in or accumulating cash for their campaign chests.
After Sen. Magsaysay finished his term in 2007, there were reports he was trying to recover from an illness. He seems well enough to run again. His illness will not prevent me from voting for him. Just think of Senator Miriam Santiago who seems ill most of the time but seems to be well enough to launch broadsides against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Panfilo Lacson.
Senator Loren Legarda (Nationalist People’s Coalition – allied with LP)
Legarda sponsored in the Senate the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act of 2012. The original AntiTrafficking Act was sponsored by Senator Loi Ejercito in 2003.
Senator Legarda authored the Magna Carta on Women – which opponents to the Reproductive Health Law later used as an argument not to pass the RH Law. Unlike before when Legarda was quite vocal in championing women’s rights, she was not high profile in the pro-RH debate. In the end, Legarda voted for the RH Law but still tried to court the Catholic vote.
Legarda is now crying out that she is the object of black propaganda. But in 2010, she dished out black propaganda like a pro. Watch the video below where she urges presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III to undergo psychiatric test:
Legarda is the type of politician na namamangka sa tatlong ilog. She has switched parties as easily as she has changed clothes. She started her political career by running under then President Fidel Ramos’ Lakas-NUCD Party in 1998. In 2004, she became the vice-presidential mate of actor Fernando Poe Junior. In 2007, she ran for re-election in the Senate under the “Genuine Opposition”. In 2010, she was with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and she ran as the vice-presidential mate of presidential candidate Manuel Villar.
She also changed her religion to Islam in order to marry Antonio Leviste, and then switched back to Catholicism after separating from him and then having her marriage with him annulled. She assured Catholic voters she was a devout Catholic:
“I pray the Rosary every day. I can’t sleep without praying the Rosary. I go to the mass every day. I am a practicing Roman Catholic. I value the Church opinion and I have high respect for the Church hierarchy and the bishops.”
Re-electionist Senator Alan Peter Cayetano (Nacionalista Party – allied with LP)
Cayetano was elected to the Senate in 2007 mainly due to his having been a high profile whistle blower in the House of Representatives against First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and the latter’s alleged foreign bank accounts.
As the Senate Ethics Committee chair, Cayetano quietly tabled the ethics complaint filed by a group of netizens against Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto for plagiarism. Cayetano never called for a meeting on the issue.
Two years ago, the Senate passed a law reining in fat and “obscene” bonuses that officers in state-owned firms were granting themselves. What the scandalized public did not know then was that the passage of the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 in the Senate was stalled for a while because one senator was demanding an additional perk for himself. This law only managed to pass after the Senate caved in to the demand of Senate minority floor leader Alan Peter Cayetano to be given one more Senate committee to head.
This was revealed on January 22, 2013 by Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, shortly before she resigned as Enrile’s Chief-of-Staff. Reyes told broadcaster Karen Davila and Vic Lima over radio station DZMM that in exchange for his “YES” vote, Cayetano had asked for the creation of the BCDA Oversight Committee to be chaired by him:
“Ito Hiniling niya at tumawag sa akin si (Senator Franklin) Drilon when he was going to pass it – I think the bill on government corporations – and Alan was blocking it. Ang hinihiling lang ni Alan ay yung matamis na ‘Oo’ kay Senate President na bigyan siya ng oversight committee with a budget of P10 million.”
“Sinabi ni Sen. Drilon, pagbigyan na para mapasa yung bill niya, even if he’s (Cayetano) is already the minority floor leader.”
Cayetano did not refute Reyes’ startling revelation regarding the oversight committee in the privilege speech he delivered on the Senate floor the very next day January 23. It is therefore reasonable to assume that it is probably true: Cayetano used his vote as a bargaining chip to wangle more senate funding for himself and his office.
There is nothing illegal about this kind of horse-trading. But it does leave a bad taste in the mouth that a lawmaker – who had made it his cause to act as the oversight for state spending – needs to be the target of oversight as well.
Senator Chiz Escudero (Independent candidate)
Senator Chiz Escudero is one of the most vocal and high profile senators. The boyish-looking senator is very good with sound bites. He thrilled the national imagination when he fought for the impeachment of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 and 2006. He was one of the youngest elected to the Senate at age 38 ( the late Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. became a senator at 34).
Senator Chiz’ middle name is Guevara. He is however no Che Guevara. While he is very good in oratory and rhetoric, the first term-senator does not seem to have a passion or an advocacy that he is championing – aside from girlfriend Heart Evangelista.
Senator Chiz’ abrupt withdrawal from the presidential race in 2010 will make campaign financiers hesitate to fund another presidential run. Some of his funders had already printed decals and spent for small give-aways.
Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito Estrada (United Nationalist Alliance)
He also owns property in California, which he has always disclosed but always at a lower value than what he paid for. See my story - Congressman JV Ejercito under declares his California property
One of my Facebook friends called my attention recently to a campaign speech JV Ejercito delivered in San Juan. My friend said after watching it – “Naloka ako.” Especially because of what JV said about his own cousin Jannah who is running for Congress.
I’ll let you make your own conclusions. You can watch it below:
Nancy Binay (UNA)
Nancy Binay says she has had 20 years of on-the-job training with her father, Vice-President Jejomar Binay. I’m not even sure if this counts as a plus. Who knows, perhaps she has learned quite a few tricks from him.
But since Binay has never been a legislator, his daughter would be clueless regarding this job. Still, between Binay and Senator Lito Lapid, she’s probably more qualified.
Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV (Liberal Party)
He is also a board member of Rags2Riches, which actually helps poor communities find livelihood.
In 2005 when Bam Aquino’s revered aunt, Corazon Aquino, called on Arroyo to step down; and his cousin Congressman Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino quit Arroyo’s ruling coalition in protest, Bam Aquino stayed on in his post as National Youth Commission chair.
This – as well as his running while his cousin is president – seems to show a lack of delicadeza on the part of Bam Aquino. So young and so opportunistic.
Grace Poe Llmanzares (Independent)
Thanks to my good ex-friend Bobi Tiglao, I found out that Grace Poe is the only senatorial candidate who has somewhat a scientific background. In his column entitled “Fake Candidates, Fake Authenticity”, Tiglao – Arroyo’s former presidential spokesman – wrote of Grace Poe:
Filipinos will not really be voting for one balikbayan named Mrs. Llamanzares, who spent most of her working life in the United States as product manager of CSS Scientific in Virginia and as procurement liaison officer for the US Geological Survey, and got married to a fellow OFW, one Teodoro employed there at a defense contractor company and who is now with San Miguel Corp.’s telecoms unit. If Mrs. Llamanzares wins, she’ll be the first ever and probably the last movie and TV censor to become Senator of the Republic.
Oh, goodie. That means she will know something about earthquakes – which we have a lot of, and for which we are preparing for the BIG ONE here in Metro Manila. I hope she champions laws favoring science and technology in the Senate.
According to Bulatlat.com, Grace Poe sees nothing wrong with political dynasties. Bulatlat wrote:
Poe also believes that there is nothing wrong with political dynasties for as long the family members have the ability to govern. In an article, she said that if politics is the chosen career of the family, then so be it. Like if there is a family of doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, then there is also a family of politicians.
I don’t believe in political dynasties but that’s for another story.
Cynthia Villar (Nacionalista Party)
Her website cynthiavillar.com states that she “authored and worked for the passage of numerous worthy legislation promoting the welfare of women, children, and family.”
When news broke that Senator Manuel Villar was linked to an offshore trust account in the British Virgin Islands, Villar downplayed the story by saying it was never activated and it was under the Villar company Fine Properties.
I did some checking of Fine Properties. It turns out that Cynthia Villar should have been the one doing the talking, because her husband has no stake in Fine Properties. The company’s incorporation papers filed with the SEC shows it is Cynthia Villar who owns a significant stake in Fine Properties.
Edgardo “Sonny” Angara (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino)
He is the only member of the prosecution team against Renato Corona who reaped the benefit of that political exercise. He has taken up the same education advocacy as his father, Senator Edgardo Angara has.
The problem is, despite his glowing educational accomplishments, Sonny Angara seems not to have gone out of his way to resolve the growing problem over APECO – the economic zone that has dislocated poor families in the Angara family’s home province of Aurora. In fact, he co-authored its creation together with his senator-father. See this story.
The country’s number one problem is poverty and the gross unequal distribution of wealth. How does APECO reduce this problem? All indications seem to point that APECO will deepen this problem in Aurora province.
Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan – UNA
Honasan tried to fulfill Enrile’s presidential ambitions by staging several coups against then President Corazon Aquino from 1987 to 1989. One coup – in 1989 – was particularly bloody. While Honasan insists he has already been forgiven through (Fidel Ramos’) presidential amnesty, he has never said sorry to the Filipino people for staging those coups. The coups seriously set back the Philippines, which was then still trying to pick up the pieces after the plunder by the Marcos dictatorship.
Ana Theresia “Risa Hontiveros” (Akbayan)
When she was a congresswoman, she championed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) bill and co-authored what later became the Reproductive Health Law.
I know this may be a trivial thing, but I find her TV ad really CORNY. Also, the fact that she has been receiving millions of pesos in campaign contributions from certain quarters could compromise some of her independence if she does win a Senate seat.
Congressman Jack Enrile (UNA)
There are too many dead bodies being linked to him. This is one of them.
Jack Enrile calls it a demolition job in this statement he issued Inquirer. He said:
“There are also reports that this demolition job is being done in order to derail my plan to look into and expose a government project that is highly questionable and grossly disadvantageous to the public.”
To date, Enrile has yet to expose this “questionable” government project